Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
How new technologies are modifying our way of life

dimanche 20 juin 2004

In this article, the Detroit News says that the adoption of nanotechnology by car manufacturers will produce safer, lighter and cheaper vehicles. While GM is already using nanocomposite materials for several vans, Ford is developing new nanoengineered catalysts to replace platinum. The newspaper gives other examples, such as auto-adaptive suspension systems, scratch-resistant paints or nanocoated windshields which will not crack. In fact, all parts in a car can be improved by using nanotechnology, according to the article. And if automakers are only going to introduce limited amounts of nanotechnology-related products in the next few years, their usage should be widespread within ten years.

The article stats with some hype.

Nanotechnology, which involves working at a scale more than 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, is about to revolutionize the way cars are built and driven.
Factories will run more efficiently with the help of microscopic assembly machines. Injuries caused by accidents will be reduced. And eventually the price of your dream car might finally be a little closer to your budget.

Here are some developments under way at GM.

General Motors Corp. is already using nanocomposites to build lighter but stronger running boards for several van models, as well as cargo beds for the Hummer H2 and exterior panels for the Chevrolet Malibu sedan.
"It’s opening a whole new world for us in the auto industry," said Alan Taub, GM’s executive director of global research and development. "We’re entering a world that we can actually improve on all the critical dimensions rather than making a trade-off."

But Ford is not far behind.

Ford Motor Co. does not yet use nanoengineered materials to the same degree as GM, but envisions the technology playing a large role in developing catalytic converters, fuel cells, structural materials and adhesives, said Ken Hass, manager of physical and environmental sciences at Ford.
"It’s not going to change the overall vehicle to be unrecognizable from today," Hass said. "But the biggest impact may well be beyond anybody’s imagination today."

Meanwhile, other researchers are working to decrease pollution by building better catalytic converters.

Nanoengineered catalysts can replace platinum and palladium, two precious metals most commonly used in catalytic converters. Platinum and palladium are expensive and in short supply worldwide.
Nanoengineered catalysts can replace platinum and palladium, two precious metals most commonly used in catalytic converters. Platinum and palladium are expensive and in short supply worldwide.
Because catalysis only occurs on the surface of the metals, most of the weight -- which drives up the price -- is essentially just filler. Nanotechnology can create catalysts that are entirely surface area.
"There are nonprecious metals that in nanoscale behave as if they are platinum," said Ismat Shah, professor of materials science and physics at the University of Delaware.

So when will we see cars made from nanomaterials built one atom at a time?

GM’s Taub said automakers will likely introduce limited amounts of nanotechnology in certain models for the next few years, with widespread use by the beginning of the next decade.
[And William Messner, a mechanical engineering professor at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University said,] "Any part of the car that’s made has the potential to be improved by nanotechnology, because ultimately materials and parts are made out of atoms and molecules."

Source: Nick Bunkley, The Detroit News, June 14, 2004

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